DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Leon Wright-Jackson and Kealoha Pilares are among those in the mix to start at running back for Hawaii.
UH smooth and efficient so far
Football camp is kind of like a new job or going back to school. In many ways the second day is really the first day. Orientation, paperwork, meetings, settling in ... that's what mostly happens on the actual first day.
So yesterday, Day 2, was really Day 1 for Hawaii. And the Warriors' first real complete practice looked smooth -- smoother than workouts last year, when they went 11-3.
There was no lallygagging, no sideshows, no distractions. Very little joking around. Players and entire units moved briskly from station to station. Coach June Jones had to yell for a scout teamer to fill a spot just once, and his request was granted quickly.
The word that comes to mind is "efficient."
Maybe it's an optical illusion, since defensive coordinator Greg McMackin is actually taking more time than usual to explain things, Jones said.
"I think Greg is going a little slower to make sure everybody gets it," the head coach said.
Cal Lee, with the expanded role of coaching all the linebackers, said the pace is brisk and he likes it. Lee was famous for efficient practices as a high school coaching legend at Saint Louis School.
"Guys can have fun, but it's a business type of environment and atmosphere, and that's the way it should be," Lee said. "You should know what you're doing. It's got to be important to you."
The offensive reps are smooth because of the team's unprecedented experience level, Jones said.
"We're kind of doing the same stuff we always do. But having guys that know what they do makes it that way," he said. "Usually we have four or five rookie receivers. This year we only have two -- Royce (Pollard) and Joe (Avery). You can go faster when guys know what they're doing."
It helps that Pollard and Avery seem to be quick studies.
Avery, in particular, has established himself as an intriguing player -- he's a 6-foot-4 wideout. It might be another year before he can challenge for serious playing time, with seniors Jason Rivers and CJ Hawthorne locked in as starters.
At running back, though, two new exciting, potential stars are vying for immediate playing time and the starting role. Sophomore Nebraska transfer Leon Wright-Jackson yesterday displayed the burst that helped make him a Parade All-American. Freshman Kealoha Pilares also possesses breakaway speed. UH fans have been watching them both for months -- on the Internet.
Pilares said he passed on viewing Wright-Jackson's highlight video.
"I didn't really care to watch it, but I heard it was good," said Pilares, who saw the real-life version of "Action Jackson" in action yesterday. "He's pretty fast, he's got some long legs."
Wright-Jackson said he did sneak a peak at footage of Pilares rampaging through the ILH.
"His tape is very good," Wright-Jackson said. "Who says we can't have three or more running backs who are all capable of doing it? He can run the ball, really quick and explosive."
When the most talked about UH players who'd never played a down as Warriors met, there was no stink-eye.
"No awkwardness at all," Wright-Jackson said. "We just both want to help our team however we can, and we're going to compete hard to make us all better."
Pilares said Wright-Jackson is "cool."
"We're trying to not even think about (the hype)," the Damien graduate said. "We're teammates and we're both learning, so we want to help each other out. We want to win, so it's not an individual status kind of thing around here. We'll see how it goes. We all just have to put in the work now."
And what of the running back listed at the top of the depth chart in the media guide?
"I just really want a ring, a championship," said junior David Farmer, whose name the coaches always link with dependable.
"I'm playing a role on this team. If Leon or Kealoha or the other guys can come in and help our offense and do things that I can't do, then I'm all for it and everything. At the same time I still want to contribute and do what I can. It's kind of a good little group of running backs we've got right now."
Jason Laumoli and Khevin Peoples also got significant reps yesterday.
"They understand that it's the nature of the beast that we've got one guy on the field representing the group," running backs coach Wes Suan said. "An injury can happen and we want the next person coming in there to be just as good as the one who was in there. So we're all working toward being one consistent factor when it comes to assignment and technique, and then let the athletic ability flow."